Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Before I set down to watch ‘Broken English’ I saw the genre was Romantic Comedy.  Now I’m not really much of a RomCom guy but I’ll take a little ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and I’m not ashamed to say that I find America Ferrara and the whole ‘Ugly Betty’ thing pretty amusing.  Plus I actually liked Parker Posey’s last RomCom in ‘The O in Ohio’ but the problem with ‘Broken English’ is that is wasn’t very funny and it certainly wasn’t very romantic, and as far as I could tell writer / director Zoe Cassavetes wasn’t even trying to make it funny or romantic.  So I suppose ‘Broken English’ was a drama, but there wasn’t much dramatic going on either.  What it actually ends up being is a Horror movie for single women in their mid-thirties.  The director I think is a single woman in her mid-thirties so it would seem to me that ‘Broken English’ may been some kind of cathartic therapy for the young auteur, but torture for me to watch.

Nora Wilder (Posey) is at a crossroads in her life.  Forty is approaching fast for the metropolitan New Yorker, she has a dead-end job as a hotel event coordinator, she can’t find a decent man or maintain a meaningful relationship to save her life and all of this is compounded by her best buddy Audrey (Drea De Matteo) seeming to have everything in her life that Nora is lacking.  Also not helping matters, in addition to Nora’s reliance on anti-depressants, is Nora’s mom Vivien (Gena Rowlands) putting the heavy pressure on Nora to find a man, settle down and deliver her a grandchild or two, which Nora would like nothing more, but things are looking bleak. 

Ah but don’t give up love just yet y’all.  At a co-workers apartment warming party Nora meets Julien (Melvin Poupaud), a smooth talking chain smoking Frenchman,

about ten years Nora’s junior, and he is immediately smitten with this neurotic wreck of femininity.  Nora attempts to be standoffish with the aggressive Frenchman, but if one persists, Nora’s not all that hard to breakdown.  Though Nora is attracted to Julien, she realizes that he is only here temporarily for work and will be heading back home to Paris shortly.  Nonetheless, Nora falls in love with him but allows him to leave.  Soon realizing that she has no life or prospects in Manhattan, thus she takes off to Paris to find her lover, but ultimately find herself, which will hopefully stop her freaking whining.

I know it seems as if I’m unsympathetic to Nora’s plight, and quite honestly it would be difficult for me to understand the psychological plight that comes with being a thirty five year old single white woman.  But I was thinking perhaps Nora should get a hobby or some sort, or maybe a pet.  But before I go any further, understand that I’m totally a Parker Posey guy.  I think she’s distractingly beautiful, talented, quirky, charming and any other number of flattering adjectives one can think of to describe this actress.  It is a testament to her ability as an actress to create this character of Nora because under normal circumstances if you told me Parker Posey could not find and keep a man, I would consider you mad.  But after spending two hours of quality time with Nora Wilder, I see that being cute and adorable can only go so far.  Even though I, personally, would never lie on a psychiatrist couch, despite my myriad of personal issues, it seems the fictional Nora needs to talk to somebody.  This somebody should tell Nora that she should stop sleeping with men and then assume that they are dating afterwards.  The first two or three times this happened, maybe she would understand this on her own.  The next fifteen... maybe help is needed.

And if Nora’s whining about her plight isn’t enough, Matteo’s Audrey then joins in to perform a chorus on how miserable her life is, though her life in the Anti-Nora with her wealthy husband, vibrant social life, and posh apartment.  This has led me to the conclusion that Zoe Cassavetes is informing me that being a thirty five year old white woman (race could be irrelevant here), married or single is the absolute worst thing on the planet to be.

If this was the message that Ms. Cassavetes, a lovely woman in her own right, was attempting to convey then damn, girlfriend is well on her way to a hell of a career behind the camera because she knows how to get a message across.  I might not have enjoyed watching the message, and the message may not have struck a nerve within me, but I recognize talent when I see it and as such I will be in the front row when the next Zoe Cassavetes film is released.

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